By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Madison Schools will operate with a financial deficit by 2014 if additional revenue is not obtained.
According to the district’s most recent five-year financial forecast prepared by Groveport Madison Treasurer Tony Swartz, the district will have a financial deficit of $4.2 million in fiscal year 2014; $2.1 million in 2015; $1 million in 2016; $766,683 in 2017; and $1.4 million in 2018.
Swartz said the reduction in future deficit amounts in the forecast reflect the long term results of a series of budget cuts the district made over the past few years.
“Our goal is to get out of the red financially,” said Swartz, speaking at the Groveport Madison Board of Education’s Sept. 12 meeting. “This could lead to a levy request in 2014. We should plan for a levy to get the situation righted.”
Swartz noted a 2011 county reappraisal of property values in the district showed an 8 percent decrease in values. This impacts the district, which depends on property taxes as a source of revenue.
“There is very little growth and we expect little future growth in property taxes,” said Swartz.
Additionally, Swartz said 2012 property tax collections “came in way below estimates and delinquent property taxes have climbed to $2.5 million, which is a delinquency rate of more than 10 percent.”
Swartz said revenue from state funding was $29.8 million in 2013 and that will rise to $30.7 million in 2014 and $33.6 million in 2015. Beyond that, he said it is not known what state funding the district would receive as that depends on future still-to-be-determined state budgets.
Groveport Madison school board member Charlotte Barker asked Swartz how much property tax abatements in the industrial parks in the city of Groveport are impacting the district.
“It costs us plenty I’m sure,” said Swartz. “We’re the big losers on property tax abatements.”
Swartz said that, while the city of Groveport shares income tax revenue from commercial developments in the industrial park, “The $1 million plus we receive annually in income tax sharing from the city doesn’t cover what we lose in property taxes.”
However, Board President Mary Tedrow observed, “But, on the other hand, those properties might not have been developed without the property tax abatements.”
Superintendent Bruce Hoover attended the Sept. 16 Groveport City Council meeting and asked council to help the district prepare voters to understand where the school district is financially. He said he wants the city to partner with the district to help identify school programs and services the community wants, needs and will support and what it will cost to offer them. He wants the two government entities to create a joint plan to communicate how the community’s choices affect the schools.
“We need to pledge to work more closely together,” said Hoover.
Hoover said the failure of the levy last May, which resulted in $4.6 million in cuts, including busing cuts that have snarled traffic at schools, indicates the community is divided on what type of education to provide.
“The community also failed to understand the magnitude of where the district is financially,” said Hoover. “Parents want what is best for the students, but we have to get them engaged in the conversation to make that happen,” said Hoover. “Anybody over age 18, certainly had a choice, had a responsibility to be informed, especially if you’re a parent of a student. I know many of the cuts we’ve made placed a lot of additional demands on already thin resources.”
He said the school board did not make the cuts “out of spite.”
Hoover invited Groveport city officials to attend a school board work session on Oct. 31 to share ideas.
In related financial news, the board approved an agreement with the Groveport Madison Local Education Association. The district’s teachers ratified the agreement prior to the board’s vote.
“This approval has allowed the current contract to be extended until June 30, 2015. The teachers agreed to a freeze on their base pay, with no steps for this school, 2013-14. For 2014-15, teachers who qualify for a step will receive that step,” said Dee Copas, Groveport Madison director of communications.